Ironclad Action

Day two of the recent Stoke Rochford Gaming meet was given over to a Land Ironclads game. Organised by the Italian Stallion, Silvio la Verde, the game used the same terrain mats as the previous day’s Imperial Skies game. The rules were simplified from the original Wessex Games set but still retained the flavour and fast-paced action. Time prevented us from reaching a conclusion to the game, but highlights were an Austrian cavalry charge against British tanks (that’s cavalry on horse, not mechanised !), a Russian front-style slaughtering of many Ottoman infantry by rocket-firing British contraptions and the appearance of a Belgian colonial Ironclad Brigade. Thanks to David Frampton and Silvio for providing most of the hardware on table.

Happy Halloween !

pumpkin-1

Flag Day

It’s Good Friday today, which is a public holiday in the UK. This means I get a day off (woot !) but the shorter working week also means no new releases this time – and with Salute looming large on the horizon, we’re at the stage where we hoard all our new stuff for the show.

Hawaii

However, I came across an article yesterday on the BBC website about the national flag referendum in New Zealand, which led to a few clicks round the web and ended up with me discovering the state flag of Hawaii. I had no idea that the flag of one a US state contained, of all things, the Union Flag, especially since Hawaii has never been a UK territory. According to Wikipedia the origins of the flag aren’t clear, but I still thought it would be an interesting addition to our range of self-adhesive Aeronef flags.

While I was there I drew up a couple of others that might be useful, including the national and naval flags of Cuba (handy for the Span-Am war).

VANF-2801

VAN-204 – Confederate National Flag – £0.50
VAN-205 – Hawaiian State Flag – £0.50
VAN-2801 – Cuban National Flag – £0.50
VAN-2802 – Cuban Naval Jack – £0.50
VAN-2901 – Romanian National Flag – £0.50

Jutland Refought

Over the weekend, a small but intrepid group of gamers gathered again at Stoke Rochford Hall for our latest Aeronef weekender. Joining the usual crowd all the way from Houston, TX was Andy Bouffard, who had managed to combine a business trip with a weekend’s gaming.

SRH

This time the theme was Jutland – or a refight of it using Aeronef instead of wet navy ships. The order-of-battle for Jutland is immense, with a total of 250 ships, and much e-mail discussion had ensued about how to portray this, how many of the escorting ships to use etc. In the end we decided to only portray the heaviest vessels – the battleships, battlecruisers and the eight British armoured cruisers. It was felt that the many other smaller vessels would simply clog up the table without adding much to the fight.

So the British took to the skies with 28 dreadnought battleships, nine battlecruisers and eight armoured cruisers. The Germans on the other hand had 16 dreadnoughts, six older pre-dreadnoughts and five battlecruisers. The stats for the game were derived from the real ships, by using the figures for displacement, armour, weight of broadside and speed to create Aeronef game stats. We only generated figures for hull points, gun dice, speed and turn rate – we ignored the small number of torpedo tubes carried by the capital ships since they were rarely used in battle, and bomb dice were unnecessary since there were no surface targets. I’ve made PDFs available for the Germans and British stats so you can see what we used. The German dreadnoughts were more powerful than all but the largest British vessels, but they were heavily outnumbered – the British ships totalled over 4100 points, while the Germans came to just 2500.

Things started badly for the Germans as the battlecruiser scout force got too far ahead of the main fleet and, isolated, was quickly torn to pieces. In a mirror of the historical engagement, the battlecruisers Invincible and Indomitable succumbed to magazine explosions in the same turn (we were using the “There Seems To Be Something Wrong With Our Bloody Ships !” special rule). The slugging match between the two main fleets then panned out as expected, with British firepower proving too much for the Germans, although some nifty German manoeuvring initially saw a large part of the British force left too far away to have much influence on the battle until they were able to close the range. We fought almost to the bitter end, and called a halt with just six German battleships still aloft. The Grand Fleet had been hit hard however, losing seven battlecruisers, several armoured cruisers and half-a-dozen dreadnoughts – so they could really only claim a minor victory in tactical terms, although strategically the loss of almost the whole of the Hochluftflotte would have a major bearing on the outcome of the war.

On Sunday morning we tried out Land Ironclads using Silvio la Verde’s excellently painted Italian and Austrian forces – although this was only a brief skirmish, we all saw enough to want to play more, so next year’s SRH weekend may have more of a land combat theme…

Tiny Terrain Part#2

At the end of last year I wrote about the creation of the terrain boards for my Stoke Rochford terrain. It’s taken a while to write this follow-up piece, but here it finally is. Anyway, this time I’m going to deal with the buildings and final details of the boards.

My painting method for our small scale buildings is pretty straightforward, aimed at producing decent looking buildings without too much fuss. I start with a white undercoat from a spray can – I wouldn’t recommend a black undercoat for models this small, they end up very dark (I did try it briefly as I hoped it might make painting the windows quicker, but soon abandoned it). The models are then block painted, usually in just two colours, one for the walls and another for the roof. I use various shades of red-brown for brick buildings, mostly Tamiya and Citadel paints. Stone buildings are painted in pale colours such as Tamiya Buff and Deck Tan or Citadel Bone. Roofs are painted in darker shades of brown for tiles, or grey for slates. The brick walls and roofs are then drybrushed using light grey or terracotta shades. Following this they are given an overall wash using Citadel inks – usually Devlan Mud (or its more recent replacement, Agrax Earthshade), but I also use a Sepia shade to produce a different final colour. Once this has dried, I flick round a very light drybrush on more prominent parts of the model. I also sometimes use an orange drybrush (Citadel Ryza Rust) on tiled roofs. The most time-consuming element is painting in the windows in black. The trick is to use a fairly runny black (Tamiya paints are perfect for this) and just dot it in the smaller windows, then let capillary action do the rest and draw the paint into the corners of the window. The final part is to then go round and paint in a few details such as stone edging (the buildings from the Civic Buildings set need this) or larger doors on the factory buildings.

On one building I made an exception to the white undercoat rule – this was the Power Station, which has a lot of large windows. I sprayed this one black first and then painted the window frames round the undercoat, which was much quicker than painting the walls first and then lining in the windows. And since it was a grimy, soot-smudged building, it didn’t matter that it came out a bit darker.

When I came to painting the town, with its multiple blocks of terraced houses, I was beginning to run out of time so I had to some up with a quicker way of getting them finished. In particular I was concerned about the hundreds of windows that the buildings had. To speed things up, after the undercoat I gave them a coat of Army Painter Fur Brown from a spray can. They were then rapidly drybrushed with Citadel Squig Orange, and the roofs painted grey. After a few details here and there they were given a generous coat of my trusty Army Painter Strong Tone Quickshade. This filled in the windows nicely – not quite as good as painting each window by hand, but a damn site quicker ! Unfortunately I mucked up the varnishing in my haste and it went white, otherwise the result would have been very effective.

I decided early on not to glue the buildings directly to the terrain. Instead, they were glued to plasticard bases which were shaped to fit around the road network. This made the layout more flexible for future use, and also meant that during play the buildings could be moved out of the way to allow for nef bases to sit there instead. I had also considered delineating gardens around the houses with hedges and fences made from coarse flock and thin plasticard strips respectively, but after trying a test piece this was abandoned as too time consuming. Instead, I settled for sticking the painted buildings to the bases, flocking and then adding random bushes and trees around them. Below you can see some of the plastic bases as I tried laying them out.

I also created a few special set-piece items for the terrain. One was a small island with a large church on the top, with a harbour and a few buildings at the foot of the hill. This is based on St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, but using one of our Large Church models instead of a castle. The harbour walls were 3D printed as a single item, and the houses came from our Normandy set.

I made another 3D model of a lighthouse – Beachy Head, off the Sussex coast. This was then put on a base with some polystyrene rocks to create something akin to the Needles off the isle of Wight

The estuary was crossed by a number of road and rail bridges. These again were modelled and 3D printed by Shapeways

I stuck a few of our poplar tree models to wooden coffee stirrers, then painted and flocked – they looked pretty effective along the roads and railways lines.

I also painted up some of our sea forts, Martello Towers and FlaK Towers to help defend the coast.

So there you have it – quite a few hours’ work, but worth it in the end !

Tiny Terrain Part #1

A little while ago I attended the latest Stoke Rochford Aeronef event at one of the finest venues I’ve ever gamed in. The theme for the game was the invasion of England, with Her Majesty’s Aerial forces attempting to see off all manner of nefarious interlopers.

In a moment of madness (probably during the third bottle of wine after dinner at the previous event) I had volunteered to make some terrain to play the game over. Given that this was over six months before, in theory I had plenty of time and no pressure. But, as is always the case, things get left until the last minute so I spent much of the last couple of weeks beforehand feverishly working away to get this ready (our show schedule at the time didn’t help).

The idea was to produce a piece of coastline based on the Scarborough area in Yorkshire. I rapidly abandoned any thoughts of making a full sized version of the town since it would require a massive number of buildings and not be all that practical to play on, the Aeronef models on their bases wouldn’t have anywhere to stand up. I thus scaled it down to a more rural area of coast with some small villages and hamlets. There were a number of specific features that I wanted to incorporate such as a wide river with bridges, a coastal castle, railway line, pier and small harbour. The terrain was split into several boards for ease of transport. I started by drawing out a plan of the boards on some large sheets of paper (I used cheap lining paper from Homebase) with each of these features planned into the layout. One of the boards was deliberately left featureless with no roads or railway, since I wanted something I could use later for photography purposes.

The basic construction of the boards used 1″ insulation foam on a base of 3mm MDF – the latter stops the edges of the boards from being too fragile but, as I discovered, it has a tendency to warp and made the boards curl slightly (even though I tried putting weights on it while it dried). I kept the surface of the terrain flat apart from at the coast itself, this again was to make the terrain practical to play over – rolling countryside would look better but nothing could stand up on it. The MDF was cut with a jigsaw, the foam with a hot wire cutter and the two glued together with DIY adhesive. The coastline was carved and shaped with the hot wire cutter and a very sharp knife with some areas that gently sloped to the sea and other more vertical cliff faces. The edges of the MDF were thinned with a cylindrical sander in a Dremel where the beaches rolled down to the sea and coated with PVA and sand. The whole thing was then painted with household emulsion – I got lucky and picked up a 2.5l tin of grass green for £2 in an end of line sale at Homebase, but other colours were from tester pots, mostly from Wickes. The beaches were painted sand (obviously), the cliffs in grey drybrushed with off-white and the gentler slopes brown. Various quantities of sand and model railway ballast were used to texture some areas.

With the basecoat on, the railway was glued down. This had been primed in grey car primer first, and once the glue had dried I gave it a good coat of Army Painter quickshade. Once this had been matt varnished, I ran a silver paint pen along the rails. Although not perfect, this gave a reasonable effect which I was pretty happy with, given that hand-painting the sleepers on over fifty pieces of track was never really a sensible option.

The road layout was drawn on in marker pen first to make sure it worked. I then painted over the roads in grey emulsion on which was sprinkled fine railway ballast. A couple of minor tracks were painted sand with similar coloured ballast.

In one area I painted a few fields in brown and sand to indicate a more rural region. At this point I was finally ready to start flocking the boards, for which I used Woodland Scenics’ fine grass green flock for the main areas and sands and browns for the fields. This suddenly made the boards look more like a region of scale terrain, rather than a messy primary school DIY project.

This article has grown rather bigger than expected, so I’ll leave it there for now – next time I’ll deal with the final details of the terrain and the buildings.

Fresh from the Mould

Some brand new stuff here, some of which might not have been seen before.

I’ve been running several new moulds (I’d have done more if it hadn’t starting raining – the English weather, as usual, is alternating between rain and stifling hot) and thought I’d show the results.

We have half-a-dozen new resin items in 6mm and 2mm. There’s a 6mm repair station, munitions bunker and primitive dwelling for the Desert Buildings range:
DesertBuildingsJune2014

And three French coastal forts for the 2mm range; Fort Louvois (Marennes, about 6 miles from Rochefort), Fort Lupin (on the Charente estuary leading to Rochefort) and Fort Boyard (in the Pertuis d’Antioche straits, once again guarding the approaches to Rochefort, and instantly recognisable to fans of rubbish 90s TV game shows).

FortsJune2014

Behind that is an Aeronef hangar – this model is already available from our Shapeways site (and it’s worth considering as the interior has loads of great internal girder detail). Obviously this resin version is a bit more solid, but it will have separate metal external doors and struts, and is designed to handle one of our Schleswig-Holstein digs.

As always, bear in mind these are early castings from brand new moulds so there’s the odd air bubble and bit that still needs to be debugged. The 6mm buildings are in the release schedule for the next 3-4 weeks, while the forts need a metal mould for additional parts (turret tops and towers, etc) so will be a week or two longer. The hangar is pretty imminent …

Tesla Towers

Nikola Tesla is probably one of the most under-appreciated scientists of all time. One of his creations was the experimental Wardenclyffe Tower built near New York, intended as a proof of concept demonstration of wireless telegraphy, broadcasting and even wireless power transmission – clearly years ahead of its time.

We thought that such a device fitted perfectly into the Victorian Science-Fiction background of Aeronef and Land Ironclads, either as a communications tower or some sort of radar-like device. The original tower has long gone (although the base building remains) but fortunately there is still plenty of photographic reference. We’ve reproduced the tower (or a decent facsimile of it) as part of the 2mm scenery range in our Shapeways shop, and you can also buy it from our website.

SHP-106

New Mediterranean Releases

We have a couple of bigger buildings in the 2mm range today. The Large Mediterranean Church is based on the one in Lourmarin, Provence – compare it with a photo of the real thing below. I’ll stump up a small prize if anyone can accurately paint all of the bars on the windows at 2mm scale !

VLI-8020-1

Lourmarin

The second model is a small hotel set in it’s own raised grounds. It would look good as the centre-piece of a village, maybe build into the side of a hill or even on a small island.

VLI-8021

VLI-8020 – Large Mediterranean Church – £3.00
VLI-8021 – Hotel with Grounds – £2.50